The gift of ‘Yes, you can’

Dear Sadie and Amelia,

I apologize that this gift has taken so long to reach you, but it took a while to convince the country that it was time.

This morning, America got a beautiful gift when Senator Kamala Harris was named Vice President-Elect of the United States.

I cried. Finally, some of the work of thousands of women over the last century has begun to pay off. 2020 is the 100th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote. That’s one really long wait.

White men have had the right to vote for 224 years; Black men gained the right 92 years later in 1868, but women – who were equally important in the development and growth of our country – didn’t get to vote until 1920. Susan B. Anthony was arrested when she attempted to vote in the 1872 presidential election. It took another 48 year for the 19th Amendment to pass, guaranteeing women equal status in the voting booth.

Sadie, your mom says that I am the Grammy who is in charge of Female Empowerment and I’m good with that. It comes from something my mother impressed upon me, that women can do anything they want and should challenge the system when they’re discouraged. I believed her and went on to break a couple of small glass ceilings when I worked with the Fremont Police Department as the first female Explorer and LAPD, alongside male trainees and officers as the first female Cadet, proving that women were just as capable as men.

I gladly accept the responsibility of providing you both with information, books, conversations and meet-and-greets with powerful women to help you realize your opportunities. I did it for Sadie’s mama and aunt and, despite the distance, will do the same to make sure Amelia knows that Rock women are Forces of Nature to be reckoned with.

Vice President-Elect Harris bears a tremendous weight upon her shoulders as the First. She will be watched closely, but I am confident that she will prevail. But I need to warn you that there are still people out there who will criticize any mistake she makes, any misunderstanding or misstep she takes – solely because she is a woman. The most cruel critics might even be other women. But don’t listen to their rhetoric. See that Kamala is standing on the shoulders of the thousands of women who went before her and stand strong.

We may have the vote, but we’re still working on the equality.

Fortunately, you are growing up in a society with more equitable opportunities across the board. Despite the challenges, don’t ever tie down your dreams, – let them soar beyond your wildest expectations. And if those dreams include public service, get in there and gain experience. Volunteer to help run nonprofit groups, serve on citizen boards and commissions, and run for office because there is just as much room on the dais for you as there is for men. My wish is that during your lifetimes, you enjoy the freedom to be voted in or appointed to offices simply because you are the best candidate.

Kamala is taking a historic first step for America, but it’s a step she’s worked on and waited patiently for. Patience and hope go hand in hand. Just ask my friend Eileen. She’s 102 and when she was born, women couldn’t vote. Her mother was an activist involved in the women’s movement and marches in Iowa. By the time Eileen turned 21 (the former voting age, getting the vote to 18-year olds is a whole different blog post), she proudly voted and has voted in every election since. She is one of the most confident people I know and absolutely thrilled to see a woman headed for the White House in her lifetime. May you have her determination and pluck.

And when you’re looking at property on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC in the future, know that those keys are within your reach, thanks to a woman who was born in the same city as your Grammy.

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years’ experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention

As a mother, I want my children to be in a safe place.

As a preservationist, I honor a sense of place.

As an American, I am having trouble finding my place.


IMG_6513An early summer visit with my son and future daughter-in-love was a lovefest, consisting mostly of sips and savors of sunshine, local spirits and spending a little West Coast money in an East Coast city. Though the temperatures soared, I saw my first fireflies, watched a lightning storm flash and roll through the distant sky and experienced many cultures at the City Market, the popular farmer’s market held downtown.


This city has been my son’s home for about 13 years and my husband and I are content that he and his beloved are in a good place that offers them stability, growth, entertainment and security.


One of the places I always like to visit is the downtown mall. It’s rich in history (the East Coast has really embraced adaptive reuse) and small businesses thrive. There’s an amazing artist collective that I always patronize and I marvel at the variety of interests that coexist in the space.


The kids and I were walking off a delicious lunch from Rapture on the mall when we turned down a brick street covered in chalk, tributes scrawled to a young woman who died during one of the blackest days in recent history. My heart stopped, frozen in grief. The sense of place struck me. This was where, a year ago, things went horribly wrong.


My son lives in Charlottesville.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning shot of the moment of impact by Ryan M. Kelly for the Daily Progress (via Reuters). From the Pulitzer Foundation Site
Photographer Ryan Kelly was watching the crowd that was peacefully singing, chanting and slowly marching, when he felt a car approaching at high speed and instinctively raised his camera and started taking pictures, capturing this horrific moment. When driver James Alex Fields Jr. threw the Dodge Challenger in reverse and sped away, he left Heather Heyer dead and several others seriously injured.

That short block is where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was struck and killed by a Dodge Challenger driven into the crowd by neo-Nazi James Alex Field, Jr. during a day of terror brought by white supremacists who – exercising their First Amendment right of assembly – marched into Charlottesville and spewed hateful messages of racism and intolerance. Heather was there to try and stop the vicious message of hate. Her last Facebook post is the title of this blog – “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”


Also killed that day were Virginia State Troopers Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, whose helicopter crashed as they were surveilling the conflict growing downtown. All three deaths were directly caused by invaders from out of town, bent on attacking Charlottesville’s heart of kindness and compassion. This disturbing trend of outsiders fomenting unrest is something spreading nefariously across the country, seeping into city council meetings and otherwise peaceful settings.


The news media has descended upon Charlottesville for the anniversary and I’m sure some of the images I am sharing will be the backdrop for many standups you’ll see this weekend. The brick walls are filled with messages of hope and love, sentiments felt by the overwhelming majority of the area’s residents. Visitors to the walls are invited to continue to contribute their own comments, invited by a box of chalk placed near the point of impact.

IMG_6516Those of you who have not been to the downtown mall may not know that it is also the site of what Charlottesville officials dedicated as a First Amendment Wall – a 50-foot long two-sided wall with a chalkboard surface and a steady supply of chalk for people to use to express themselves. The walls are cleaned weekly, so the messages are ever-changing. Some artists have created images, writers have posted inspirational prose, lovers emblazon the wall with hearts and flowers and others simply write their favorite quotes or salutations. Near the wall is a small platform where speakers can share their messages verbally. This area is very near Charlottesville’s City Hall complex, embracing the city’s dedication to freedom of expression.


Heather’s walls are a few hundred feet from that symbolic area.


I was too overwhelmed with feelings to walk those hundred feet to see the First Amendment wall during my visit. The tears filled my eyes at not just Heather’s loss of life, but also the loss of innocence and safety I hold dear for my children. How could anyone have so much hate to come into another’s neighborhood and be so cruel, hateful and un-American?


So much hate vs. so much love. So much hurt, breaking the collective nation’s heart.


What holds true is that, on that day, the streets of Charlottesville were filled with passion – some misguided, some true. The racist marchers were met by peaceful counter-protestors, filling the streets to tell the interlopers that they were not welcome in their community, that there was no place for their hate. Without criticizing any response from authorities, the situation exploded out of control quickly and innocence suffered the most severe injuries. All the hindsight in the world cannot change what happened, but we do have control over how it plays out in the future.


Charlottesville city, Albemarle County and Virginia State officials have banded together, closing many of the popular gathering spots (including that delightful City Market) for the weekend. Merchants at the downtown mall are banding together, many of them vowing to stay open as long as it remains safe. A ridiculously long list of prohibited items has been established to keep “implements of riot” away from the downtown area. Conspicuously absent from that list are two deadly weapons: guns and cars. The governor has declared a State of Emergency, allowing federal authorities to assist should the situation get out of hand. The National Guard is on standby.


As an American, and as a journalist, I am committed to defending the First Amendment; to preserve and protect the people’s right to free speech, assembly, religion, press and petitioning the government. Whether the cause falls into my beliefs or not, the rights are critical to our country, but I will not defend violence or hate of any kind at any time.


The peaceful, friendly, safe place where my children live is on lockdown for the weekend because the passion of hate threatens to burn brighter than the flame of hope. We must make sure that Heather and Troopers Cullen and Bates did not die in vain.

IMG_7166Friends in my neighborhood may have noticed the turquoise sticker on my car and wondered “What’s C’ville?”  It’s a place we love. We will continue to visit and embrace Charlottesville as our own, because so many people we love live there. We refuse to accept that hate is stronger than love.



For an unbiased, thorough, excellent accounting of the events of August 2017 in Charlottesville, I highly recommend “Summer of Hate” by Hawes Spencer, a journalist who has reported for the New York Times, the Daily Beast and NPR who has also taught journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University.


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years’ experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Make. The. Time.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 4.47.51 PMA few years ago, I made a resolution to reconnect. Reconnect with people who molded and influenced me, made me laugh, saved me from jail, lent an ear to my drama queen moments, or were bumpers in my pinball journey through life.

I promised myself I would be selective – that I would reach out to the people that I really missed and wondering where their adventures had taken them. So not everybody.

No offense, Susan Watts, but you stole my Popsicle money in elementary school and I’m still pissed. We will not be visiting.

Everyone has a handful of people whose orbits have veered away from ours, whose fates intrigue us, making them hover on our map of stars, just a short distance away. We might exchange Christmas cards, or even text messages, which always end with “let’s get together soon!”

Show of hands: how many people have actually follow through?

It’s hard. We’ve all got schedules, work, kids, families, and obligations that pull us in different directions. Sometimes it seems impossible to make time for another lunch or an impromptu road trip.

Nothing is impossible.

I’m here to tell you to make the time. Make. The. Time.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 4.50.01 PMI will soon celebrate what I’m referring to as my Beatles birthday – 64 – and what I’m about to say usually applies to those of us with a shorter balance on our dance card.

Make the time. When someone says, “let’s do lunch” or “gee, it would be great to see you,” be the person who answers “OK, when? Let’s make a date. Now.”

Because nobody knows who is going to be around if you put it off and regret is sometimes more painful than loss.

When I first made that resolution, I had two main targets for immediate reconnects – my best friends from school; Vicki, who became my ride-or-die in second grade and Margaret, who I was partnered with when she joined our sixth grade class as a recent emigrant from Canada. We were assigned to be buddies; my job was to show her around and help her get comfortable in her new home. Little did those teachers know that our relationship would get stronger and we would be joined at the hip as we moved through junior high and high school.

We were even christened “Kochaltoosh” – a mashup of our last names, long preceding Brangelina, by one of our civics teachers because when there was one in the room, the other was not far away.

Both Vicki and Margaret lived in Central California, and I love road trips. It had been at least 28 years since our family of five visited Vicki and her husband, Preston, and the last time I saw Margaret, it was at a baby shower my family threw for me in the Bay Area. Her appearance was a surprise and I was even more surprised that she was pregnant too. Our daughters were born one day apart – 37 years ago.

of course, there were more serious pictures, but why not show us in our natural setting?

In the spring of 2016, I drove up to Tracy to visit Vicki. Her brilliant smile hadn’t dimmed and her firecracker spirit was undaunted, despite some health challenges. From the first hug at the curb, I was awash with gratitude that we were able to pick up from where we’d left off. The next two days were spent talking, learning about each other’s subsequent lives, laughing and catching up. I did feel the mantle of responsibility she shouldered, as her husband had recently gone to an assisted living facility because of his dementia, but she soldiered on because … well, life. Gotta keep going.

It was timely that we discovered that our yin and yang, discovered so many years before, was stronger than ever.

The next day, we both headed for Manteca to visit with Margaret and her husband, Roland. They lived in a beautiful little house that was the perfect setting for their happy existence and occasional party-throwing (something Margie excelled at, I learned). Seeing her, I physically felt my past come back, remembering the years we spent growing and learning about life together. She looked the same, albeit a tiny bit grayer, but still excited that we were together. We looked at yearbooks, wedding pictures, talked about friends past; she whipped up a delicious lunch and the three of us spent the afternoon doing a lot more laughing. When we finally had to part, the connections had been strengthened; the determination to stay a little closer cemented and all of our hearts happy. I drove the next leg of my trip, up to Sacramento to pick up my daughter (the one that’s one day younger than Margaret’s) and we headed back to Southern California to surprise her sister.

The original Kochaltoosh. Or since the Toosh is on the left…..oh never mind.

A few months later, I got a text from Margaret, telling me she was being treated for myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood cancer. She was optimistic and said that so far, the chemo was not too bad. She was scheduled to receive a bone marrow transplant in June, and when I checked in on her, she said the transplant went well, sending a picture of her and Roland enjoying missles (frozen treats), proudly displaying her “chrome dome.” Doctors were pleased with her progress and I started thinking about bringing up a stack of LPs she would enjoy.

In the meantime, Vicki’s husband was moved to another facility. She came down to visit and we went to LACMA and a few wineries near my daughter’s house, so she could see the countryside and meet my granddaughter. I cooked dinner every night and we were happy and content to just enjoy each other’s company. When she returned home, we started texting more. I sent texts to Margaret, but didn’t hear back, but I figured she must just be busy.

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Then, as we celebrated my granddaughter’s birthday, I got a panicked phone call from Vicki. Preston had died. I dropped everything and drove up to her new home (she now lives with her daughter on a farm) for the funeral. I put the LPs in the car, intending to make a quick trip up to see Margaret and drop them off before I headed home. I texted her that I was in Northern California, but still no answer. I left the stack with Vicki.

A month later, I saw a posting on Facebook that she had died – on the day I had arrived in Tracy for Preston’s funeral.

Vicki and Margaret weren’t the only friends from my past that I had reconnected with. About 10 years ago, I found Olivia, a friend who showed me the ropes of Southern California when I was a newbie and working for LAPD, on Facebook and we started corresponding. She visited a couple of times when she came home to Santa Paula to check on family and we spent a lot of time on Memory Lane, remembering parties, dates and escapades that went back more than 40 years. She had moved across the country and we had both changed careers, but we could still talk for hours about everything.

We loved our friendship and Mexican food almost equally

Last week, she went in for surgery to take care of a small growth in her abdomen. She goofy-posted while she was coming out of anesthesia (if you’d ever met Olivia, you wouldn’t try to take her phone away for any reason), then made us all feel better when she was coherent and grammatical the next day. Everything had gone well … until 24 hours later, when she threw a blood clot and suddenly died.

I love social media, except for when I get news flashes like these. The posts seem unreal and we hurriedly scroll through and jump from page to page looking for verification and feeling our hearts sink when we find it. While we hate the messenger temporarily, we seem to draw comfort from the worldwide community of our friends in common – one of them even likened it to “an online funeral” because people from all over could share their memories and sorrow and start our collective healing.

I didn’t write this post to start a flood of “sorry for your loss” messages, although I deeply appreciate those I received when Preston and Margaret and Olivia shuffled off this mortal coil. Vicki is fine and I am considering protecting her with bubble wrap so we can celebrate our 100th birthdays together (she will be free from harm and have something to do at the same time. Good thing both of us are easily entertained).

While my heart hurts for their passing, I am eternally grateful for having taken the time, making the drive, sending and answering texts and being present.

We blow off too many people because of time, politics, and inflexibility. If someone means or meant something to you, take a moment. Gas up the car. Make the reservations. Hit the road.

Trust me, the feeling is better than you can ever imagine.

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Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Time to stop the violence of convenience

Many of you know I used to be a newspaper columnist in Northern Los Angeles County. I wrote about random things and issues that affected my community. Sometimes I polled my colleagues in the newsroom for materials, like for this one that contrasted our attitudes with a current news story …….


“Damn it! If that kid leaves the garage door open one more time, I’m taking away his keys.”

“There was a girl crouched beneath a desk in the library and the guy came over and said ‘Peek a boo’ and shot her.”

“That drama teacher is so hard on them. She kept them late again.”

As students took a math test, the door opened and a teacher staggered in, covered in blood. He was shot right in front of them.

“Why can’t you be more responsible? Pick up your room. Do I look like your maid?”

“He was shot twice. In the back. My brother jumped over him to get out.”

“I’m not going to make my child wear a uniform. That stifles their creative expression.”

“You should be safe at school. This should be a safe place.”

“No, I’m not getting up to give you a ride to school. You should have set your alarm.”

“We were just sitting in the room, praying. Some people were crying. We were thinking, ‘We’re in here, come rescue us.’ I heard a boy cry, ‘Please, don’t shoot me,” then another voice and a gunshot.”

“I’m too busy to come to your game. Can you get a ride home with somebody on the team?”

“Our teacher was so awesome. She helped us so much, she kept such a cool head, even though she was going through the same thing. Her husband was a teacher in the next room and she couldn’t get to him.”

“I just don’t understand your friends. They dress so weird.”

“He put a gun in my face and said ‘I’m doing this because people made fun of me last year.’”

“Don’t bother me now. I’m watching my show.”

“Her name is not on any list. They don’t know where she is.”

“Where do you think the money is going to come from? Get a job!”

A sign held up in a window read: Help. I’m bleeding to death.

“I’ve told you time and time again, the dishes are your responsibility. I’m sick of having to play cop.”

“My sister. He went back to get my sister.”

“If you were where you were supposed to be and doing what you were supposed to, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“I thought it was a prank for morning announcements. But when I saw how big the gun was, then I knew. I know it had to be real.”

“How many times have I told you, my messages are important. And is that phone permanently attached to your ear?”

“Somebody yelled, ‘Everybody in the room leave now.’ We thought it was a fire.”

“I’ve been through more bomb drills than fire drills. We’ve all been taught to get down and stay down, because it there’s bombs, there might be guns.”

“They were just like ‘We’ve waited to do this our whole lives.’ And every time they’d shoot someone, they’d holler, like it was exciting.”

“We have 2,500 students here at this school. Counselors can’t spend very much time with each one.”

“I wrote goodbye notes to my parents, my sister and my little brother, because I left before he got up… ‘I hope I haven’t taken your love for granted … I’m glad I was the one to go through this and not you … I love you. I hope every time you hear this, it grows in meaning.’”

“We hardly ever see each other anymore, with our crazy schedules. It’s a big deal for us to sit down to dinner together.”

“It still hasn’t sunk in. We hear Columbine High School and I think, “Whoo, hey, I go here.’ I remember thinking, ‘I’m so glad I’m safe here.’”

Bye, honey, I love you. Have a good day at school.


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Anguished parents reunite with their students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida after a gunman killed 17 on campus. Image: CNN

When I wrote the column above, which was published in The Signal newspaper in April 1999, my message was one of perspective. Did we appreciate our kids? Did we ever consider what our last words to them might be? Could we even wrap our heads around the concept of school shootings? Columbine, in all its horror, introduced a reality that we swore we’d never accept.


Oh, how wrong we were.


Yesterday, 17 people died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Teachers. Coaches. Students who will never grow up and achieve greatness because a disgruntled 19-year-old student was able to walk into a gun store and purchase an AR-15 assault rifle, then revisit his former campus and fulfill a prophecy he promoted on social media.


Florida law does not allow 19-year-olds to buy beer. They can, however, purchase murder weapons with no problem.

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 3.39.17 PM
This is the AR-15 weapon used by the suspect in the Parkland, FL school shooting. It was purchased with the same ease as one would buy a soda and candy bar. Image:

There were warning signs with the suspect. We preach “See something, say something,” but when are we going to take it further than lip service? We know that shootings – not just in schools, but churches, movie theaters and concert venues – are a problem, but what are we doing about it? Now, there are 17 shattered families planning funerals because there is a large group of people who value the right to own firearms more than the rights of human beings to live. (To learn more about the victims of the Parkland shootings, visit


My hope is that this blog gets at least 24 hours of airtime before there is another incident like this one.


Eighteen years ago, I was trying to make us think twice about how we treat each other. Today, I have the same motive, but the ennui makes me sick to my stomach. That column should have been a standalone, an unusual situation that happened once in a blue moon, but yesterday’s shooting was the 18th in 2018 alone. Today’s journalists are writing those stories and columns again. School shootings have become so routine that there is practically a template for them.


Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 3.40.37 PM
Image: WBBJ-TV

There is something we can do, without removing the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Require responsible gun ownership. Require safety classes and security measures that keep guns away from easy access. We can restrict access to firearms to those with mental illnesses or prior convictions. We can require background checks at EVERY juncture of a firearm purchase, and the same for ammunition. We can eliminate the availability of assault weapons and those that carry more than six bullets. There is absolutely no justifiable reason for civilians to have these kinds of weapons, period.


The change must also happen with our elected officials. Instead of hand-wringing, use those hands to call, write, email, contact your elected officials (find them here: and ask them to force the discussion of the nation’s safety across all party lines. Your state legislators can make changes too. Tell them to make assault rifles harder to get than a license to drive a car. Tell them that 17 dead is 17 too many for us to accept. Fight the resignation that “there’s nothing we can do.” If your officials are in the pockets of the National Rifle Association (and by association, gun manufacturers), vote them out of office in favor of candidates who will take a stand and protect our citizens. If you want to get involved in gun control political action, check out, an umbrella group that works to promote positive gun safety.


Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 3.37.18 PM
This formation used to mean “Conga!” – but now it is burned into every student’s brain to mean “my hands are up, I have no weapon, please let me get out of here safely.” Image: USA Today

It’s time. It’s time to have the discussions NOW. It’s past time to stop the violence of convenience – where murder weapons are as easy to get as a Slurpee.


Because we all deserve to tell our kids “Bye. I love you. Have a good day at school.”


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!












Orange or Blue? It’s a family thing

See? I have a cool Dodgers hat. And I’m at Dodger Stadium. Life IS Good!

Go Dodgers! World Champs 2017! Whoo-hoo!

There. I got that off my chest.

I take a lot of grief from my friends and family for being a diehard San Francisco Giants fan. I proudly wear the orange and black, know the name of the mascot (Lou Seal) and the history of home plate moving from one park to another, but I can’t spew names or stats. That doesn’t stop the swell of pride when my Boys from the Bay are doing well.




Three World Series Championships in five years that start with a 20. Just sayin’. The stats I do know? The Giants have won more National League pennants than any other team (23), followed by the Dodgers with 21. And they’ve been World Series Champions 8 times, while the Dodgers have been on top 6 times. Let’s hope that number goes up to 7.

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Despite many “friends” painting me as the evil enemy, I am thrilled that tonight, the Los Angeles Dodgers will play in the first game of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros. I think it would be an awesome Halloween trick if the Series becomes their treat next week and we get to have a victory parade in early November.


And I will buy a shirt. Because blue looks good on me too.



Unlike my husband, I love baseball. Not enough to park myself in front of a TV for every game or listen to every play-by-play (I am, however, guilty of logging on to and “watching” a critical game or two that wasn’t televised), but enough to know most of the rules, enjoy the opportunity to see a game live and agree that it is, despite my track-and-field coach husband, America’s Pastime. (Side note: when my sweetie was cast as the coach in a production of “Damn Yankees,” I thought it was hysterically ironic. There was some really good acting there).

I even played baseball when I was an adolescent, a proud member of the “Coronado Creeps” of the Cabrillo Park Asphalt League. We played in the street with home plate in front of my best friend’s driveway and first base right around the Kennedy’s mailbox. Lucky for us we never broke a window or a windshield. I continued to play for kicks and giggles after college and can still pick up a bat and make a reasonable hit, but at my age, a pinch runner is a given.

The infamous Giants fan and daughter enjoying Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium. It happened to be my birthday too!

As a Southern California resident for longer than I lived in the Bay Area (43 years here, 20 years there), I feel the pressure – nay, the requirement – that I must be a Dodgers fan. I do enjoy the occasional game and am happy when they win (except when they play my guys) and I possess not one but two Dodger caps for wearing when the Giants aren’t playing. I really wanted the Dodgers to take the Series last year for Vin Scully, a man I truly admire (although my childhood hero was Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges). And I have a standing tradition with a good friend to catch at least one North-South rivalry game every season.


My “Free Gift with Purchase” son (i.e., my Son In Love’s brother) and his uncle try to bug me about players and their records. Goes over my head. Not into stats or RBIs or injuries. I just like the Giants. I’ve always liked the color orange. My bedroom at home was painted orange, my first new car was an orange VW, and I thought I won the lottery when my high school colors reflected those of my baseball team. But there’s more to it than that.


Even when the A’s settled in nearby Oakland, I stayed true to the Giants. I went to school with Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley who pitched to Dodger Kirk Gibson on that fateful night in 1988.  Dennis, who graduated the year after me, was disappointed that he wasn’t drafted by the Giants in 1972 and I shared his adoration of Willie Mays, who we both saw playing at Candlestick Park in our youth.

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And by my side at those Candlestick outings was a woman who lived and breathed Giants baseball – my mom. She was determined to give me an appreciation for the sport and for the players. I can probably name more players from 50 years ago than those on the team today – Mays, Willie McCovey, Jim Davenport, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, the Alou brothers, Matty, Felipe and Jesus, were my chosen celebrities. I wanted to have a black satin jacket like hers with the Giants logo embroidered on the back and front. I remember going to the grocery store before a game to load up on peanuts (because ballpark prices seemed high in those days too). She would talk me through the plays and show me how to watch the bases and predict who was going to try and steal or who could catch pretty much anything that was airborne.


Somewhere in her MomWisdom, she must have known I was never going to be an athlete, that I’d probably do something else like act or write. At least, she figured, she could teach me to be a good spectator and fan.


Then there was my dad. He thought Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were the greatest players in baseball and damned if they didn’t play for the Dodgers. So on game days when those two teams were going head to head, the excitement was electric. Sitting between them at the park, it was fun to watch their faces as they reacted to the plays on the field. They were some of the best days – and nights – of my life.


Speaking of days and nights, if you went to a double-header at Candlestick, you were guaranteed to cook and sweat during the first game and freeze all your extremities during the second one, with the wind whipping off the bay and right into the cheap seats. With the team’s move to AT&T Park, I doubt the weather dips nearly as deeply off McCovey Cove to require a complete change in clothes between games.


I was at a Dodger game this spring and a few rows in front of us, there was a little girl and her dad who were yelling and cheering really loud. She was dressed in Dodger blue from top to toe and dad was wearing his favorite jersey. They enjoyed a repast of Dodger dogs, ice cream, nachos, peanuts, soda and beer – the basic Chavez Ravine food pyramid – and they were having the time of their lives. It was a capsule of Americana, a date that I hoped wasn’t a first or last, but a tradition that she would remember and they would both cherish. I could see myself in that little girl and it restored my faith in a good old game of baseball.


That, I told my friend, that is why I’m a Giants fan. Not because I hate any other team (in fact, I don’t allow myself to use that word), not because I want to be a rival, not because I miss the Bay Area (I don’t), but because my memories are wrapped in that black satin jacket and those store-bought peanuts. And they hit a home run every time they come up to bat.

All three of my girls celebrating at Dodger Stadium this September. The Dodgers didn’t win this one, but we had some great family time and that’s what it’s all about, no?


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!









A weekend in NiceToMeetYaLand

The Portland Familia – Ana, Susan and yours truly. Just before we said goodbye.

So, the question of the week has been “How did it go?”


And the answer is “We had a great time.”


While it was a wonderful adventure meeting my new-found sister-in-law Susan and niece Ana (my only surviving biological relative – that I know about), it was a tiny bit strange for both of us. Not bad strange, but OK strange. Like being on a blind date with a cheat sheet, trying to get more details as the night progressed and laughing as we walked to the car, giving each other a final hug.


It was also a bit amazing. And heart-warming. And weird. And mind-blowing.


And good. Definitely good.


I’m not sure what anyone’s expectations were for this face-to-face meet. Did I want a warm embrace? Got several. Did I expect more questions? Of course. Did I hope for a spilling of the emotions, a “we’ve been looking for you forever, etc.” kind of response? Not really. I already got my treat with Susan’s enthusiastic “I knew it!” when I initially contacted her.

Susan and I on the waterfront in Lake Oswego. We were not drunk, I just hold a camera funny. Trying to be artsy.

What I wanted to prevent more than anything else was ‘the click’ that every adoptee fears. The “OK, we’ve seen enough of you, now go away again. Forever.”


Thankfully, that didn’t happen. There were lots of hugs and smiles. Lots of looking into each others’ eyes – for what, the answers known only to the looker – and comparing or pondering each other’s unique features.


Like my eyes. They’re big and really, really green. My mom had hazel eyes and according to what she told the state of California, my dad’s were blue. Nobody in the family that came before me had green eyes, but I definitely handed that gene down to my girls.


My niece and my daughters look slightly similar, except for their noses. My son looks the most like my mom. My niece has her father’s nose, slightly larger than my kids’, but the smile – that big face-brightening smile, and even the knowing smirk – is definitely something she and I share.


And the big, bright eyes. Even though hers are brown.


If there was one word to describe the events of the last month or so, it would be “overwhelming” and my weekend in the Pacific Northwest would have been impossible without the love and support of my extended family members from the theater, my in-laws and everyone Rock-related who fed, housed and entertained me while my head swam with new information and emotions. To them, I offer immense thanks for making sure I made this journey safely, both emotionally and physically.


Just when you think you have everything figured out in life, somebody pitches a wrench at you causing a change in your direction and angle and quite possibly making you pull a muscle. I was content with my little family of kids in three cities, my granddaughter becoming a fierce little heart-tugger, my sweetheart and I planning on things to do now that it’s just the two of us (well, plus our furbabies). I cook a lot, bake some, walk regularly, drink a lot of coffee, enjoy social media, play fantasy football, dabble in theater, advocate for the arts and am fighting my damned procrastination gene by seriously trying to write the books within me.


Then that yearbook picture surfaced.


And the whirlwind investigation began. And the finding … oh, the finding!


No clicks on the first round of calls. And an encouraging response to my proposed visit, which became an immediate priority. The Grim Reaper had already taken away my mother and brother and I wasn’t willing to let the rest of them slip away.


When I pushed open the door to Manzana Grill on the waterfront Friday night, I recognized Susan right away. We hugged a couple of times and settled on a table outside. There was some sizing up, and some heavy sighs, but I think at our ages (I’m 63, she’s a few years younger), we’re already comfortable with each other – new-found friends who happen to be not-so-distantly related.


We quickly launched into more questions about my brother; what was he like, did she see a resemblance, how was their marriage, was he a good father … you know, the normal grilling. I learned more about his reality, his strengths and shortcomings, his interests and his faults, causing me to pause and wonder how someone would describe me if the situations were reversed.


She told me that Amber would not be coming down from Seattle, that Amber was her impulsive one, contrasting Ana’s fondness for planning. I was a bit sad that she wasn’t there, but decided that it just meant a trip to Seattle might be in my future. And there’s always email and social media. I chose to focus on the positive.


We talked about our children, their growing up experiences and how grandparents (mostly my mom) played into the picture. We talked about work and the military and where we lived and traveled. I told her about my adoptive parents, how they were wonderful people and always supportive of my search. Talking to her, I probably unconsciously slipped into reporter mode, probing for details, trying to coax out enough to flesh out the two-dimensional people in my special adoption notebook that holds 8×10 prints of every photo and documents in plastic sleeves. It’s all I’ve got of them.


Even though Amber offered to contact my mother’s husband for me when we spoke last month, Susan encouraged me to make that call. She opined that he might welcome contact from a part of the wife he loved for so long, even if I might have been She Who Will Not Be Mentioned.


A potential click. Why the hell not? We’d talk about it later, Saturday afternoon, when she thought that Frank and I flying out for a meet and greet might be better. Our bank account has something to say about that. A phone call will have to do.


After a few hours, we ran out of words. We talked about where to meet the next day and where to park. Ana was joining us and it would be the first time I got to see her. I was excited all over again.


Then we got in our cars and drove away. Nobody was expecting me home and the sun was still up in a twilight kind of way. Both Starbucks I stopped at were closed and Siri was no help at all in finding a play or a movie nearby. I drove past a funky looking bar and restaurant and thought I’d stop in for some fish and chips. I posted a message on Facebook for my Oregon friends, telling them where I was in case they were wandering and wanted to join me.


I ate alone, then went back to my nephew’s house. His wife was home and we had a chance to chat. She was eager to hear how my night had gone, but I was still in the processing mode, so we talked about lots of other family stories, about their daughter and roommates and coworkers and the house and life.


The best this wordsmith could muster up in assessing the evening was “Good. It was very, very good.” And it was sincere.


You know me. If I can patronize a historic building, I’m there!


The next morning, I arrived at Kell’s Irish Pub a good 15 minutes before the agreed-upon time and while I was sitting out front, heard laughter and turned to see Ana and Susan walking toward me. And it wasn’t weird, it was more like a normal Saturday where three women met to go to Saturday Market in Portland. Those kinds of events are always more fun with a group, so you can ooh and ahh over things or snicker when it’s appropriate. It’s also a good way to learn about each other’s likes and dislikes. I learned that Susan loves candles (would you believe that we only found ONE candle vendor in the whole market?) and that Ana loves her cat (both Susan and I bought toys for the kitty).


Susan wanted to either get a henna tattoo or a caricature, but I hesitated, because a friend once had an allergic reaction to the henna and ended up with a permanent scar and I’m not too keen on the work of caricaturists. Visually, she dresses more like the free spirit, while I’m a little more reserved – the Grace to her Frankie. We briefly considered getting our faces on garden gnomes, but quickly kiboshed that idea. I bought a couple of toys for Sadie, some hot sauce (Ana loves hot sauce and the vendor got excited when I told him my son grew his own hot peppers) and we walked past booth after booth of eclipse t-shirts and jewelry (one vendor got very upset when Susan and I thought her eclipse earrings were sunflowers, show us that she had her husband make partial eclipse pairs with the black circle off-center). At the end of the market, we decided to go back to Kell’s and enjoy a good Irish repast and a cold beer, as the Southern California heat I thought I’d left behind had made its way north.


In the booth, we talked about Disneyland, Portland, grandma and grandpa, work, school (Ana’s upcoming doctoral studies and me finally graduating with my bachelor’s at age 60), my kids and when Susan and Ana could come down to Southern California to be tourists. I tried to explain where places they’d heard of were in relation to our house and promised to take them wherever they wanted to go. I learned more about Ana’s work on a clinical study and how she is on call even when she’s off work because of her subjects. I shared some of my career highs and lows, we talked a little politics and Susan and I talked about how much we loved being grandmothers.


Eclipse – chocolate, vanilla and orange filling

VoodooLayerOneAfter buying sweatshirts to commemorate our visit, the three of us headed out to a Portland landmark, Voodoo Donuts. I hadn’t eaten a donut for months (I allow myself two every January) and now they were taking me to the mecca of glazed creativity (there is one x-rated donut that is never listed on the menu board outside).



During our 45-minute wait (which I heard was short), I discovered a few things: they should sell sunscreen to the people waiting in line; L.A. does not have a lock on bad singers, as the Voodoo Elvis karaoke singer proved and they really are dedicated to Keeping Portland Weird. It says so on the building across the street.


The walk back to the car was short and we were tired from the heat. We knew the visit was almost over and they lingered at the car to look at my collected pictures and documents, posing for some quick selfies (Susan shot a couple of Ana and me, then I turned the camera on all three of us) before they walked away. I put my book away, stashed the donuts and hot sauce and toys and carefully tucked away the memory of our moments together.

Niece Ana and Crazy Aunt Me


My niece, in whom I saw my history. My sister-in-law – hell, my SISTER – who met me 11 years after losing her husband. Those who knew about me before they knew of me.


My family.


I’m still mulling over the memories and the joy in getting to know them. I hope they are feeling the same. I hope they know there is much warmth in my heart because of them.


And I hope we see each other again soon. After all, we’ve got a lot of time to make up for.



Liquid refreshment, the new PDX carpet and a great read. Highly recommend this author!

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Finding familia in the Pacific Northwest

So where were we? Oh yeah. Mom. Can you imagine being 63 years old and not knowing what your mother looked like?


That reminder smacked me upside the head last month when I got a message from a genealogist friend, asking me if I had found my mom yet. I told her I hadn’t really been looking lately and she popped back with “I found her yearbook picture.”


Holy crap. It wasn’t like I never thought this would happen, it just was unexpected THEN. It’s kind of like winning the lottery. Suddenly you have all these riches you always dreamed of, but you’re just not sure how to feel about it. You want to tell the world, but you know you need to tell your kids first. After all, this is their grandmother. Not Grandma Closeby or Grandma Faraway (as my husband’s and my adoptive mothers were referred to), but Mom’s mom.


It didn’t occur to me until then that they might have been searching for more people who looked like them too.


I asked her if I could see it and she sent it right over. It was Rusty, all right. And what resemblance I couldn’t see, my husband spotted right away. And my kids. And my Facebook family, when I posted side-by-side graduation pics.

There she was.

Rusty copy
Elizabeth “Rusty” Kilgore, aspiring journalist, Class of ’49 Miami Jackson High School.

Carol Kochalka, Class of’71, Washington High School, Fremont, CA

Her listing in the yearbook came with a quote from Shakespeare, “Be great in act as you have been in thought.” She was in GAA in grades 10 and 11, in the Glee Club in 10th grade, in the Dean’s Association in grades 11 and 12, was in the Future Homemakers in her junior and senior years and was on the Globe staff in her junior year.


Yep. She was an aspiring journalist. Check.

And a singer. Check.

And got good grades. Check.

And could whip up a frock and some killer cinnamon toast. Check.

I have no idea how it happened, but obviously the athletic gene mutated when it got to me.


Nature or nurture?


The initial message came in around 8 pm and the flurry of texts and posts between family and friends took up a good portion of the next few hours. It was 11 pm when another message came in from Liz, asking if I was awake. I confirmed that I was and she wrote “I found some more info. She passed away in 2015. I’ll send you the obit. I’m so sorry.”

I wasn’t sure how to feel. Three hours before, I was excited about the possibility of meeting and thanking the woman who gave me life and now those chances were dashed. She was my mother and I had suffered a loss, but it wasn’t hitting me straight on. To me, my mother died in an Oregon hospital in 1994 as I held her hand, waiting for the machines to stop and let her pass in peace. I remember feeling then that I really was an orphan, the parents who raised me were gone and the ones who made me were missing in action. Now, I was learning that for 21 years, she had been living in Florida, unaware of my existence in Southern California.


I think.


When you discover – or “find” – it’s not a simple thing. There is a boatload of questionable baggage that comes with it. Your facts are quickly overshadowed by the new questions you have, the unknowns that have been hiding behind the basics in your mind. Having birthed three children myself, I know I will always mark their birthdays, remember how they grew, what their little womb-tics were. Did I have any? Did she ever think of me? Was April 7 a special day for her? Did she observe it with secrecy? Or joy? Did she ever talk with my father, whose name is absent from every document? Was I just erased from her life – until another family member raised a question or two?


Liz felt bad that she hadn’t searched more. I met her online when a mutual friend, my detective buddy who was also an adoptee, passed my information on to her with my blessing. That happened in 2009. Liz did some looking early on, but we hadn’t touched base in a while. She told me that she regretted not looking more frequently (she found the yearbook when she added “Rusty” to the name she was submitting) because she might have found her before she passed. I told her that I never had expected to find my mom and if I had, all I wanted to do was thank her for doing what she did and that I hoped my life would have made her proud. And that I loved her because I knew she loved me.


Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 11.23.00 PM
Elizabeth “Rusty” Kilgore Wright Howard. Photo from US Navy service in ’50s-’60s that ran with her obituary in 2015

She forwarded her obituary to me and it was like opening a treasure box. There were names and relations and occupations and all sorts of new leads for me to follow. Liz and I started anew on the searching, using Ancestry and other search engines. Mom had remarried (they were together 54 years, he is still alive and living in Florida) and I had a half-brother, and a sister in law, two nieces and a great-niece. Sadly, my brother died in 2006.


I’ve always said that Facebook is one of my best friends and was one of my most important reporter tools – those instincts kicked into high gear and I started some serious stalking. I found my nieces’ pages and sent them messages and friend requests – hoping beyond hope that they might take a chance and look at my page, accept the request and read the message, but two days later, I still had no answer. I tried LinkedIn, which frustrated me in the past, but on this day helped me find a gold mine. Using information that Liz and I had been able to procure from Ancestry, I was able to track back my sister-in-law’s residences and service records, finding her on that site. I leveled up so I could send a personal message and wrote an abbreviated plea to connect and asked her if we could talk.


That night, as my husband and I were dining with friends, my phone blew up with her response.


“I knew it! I knew it!” my sister-in-law wrote. “I knew he had a sister!”


I couldn’t write back fast enough to tell her I’d be home in an hour and that we could talk on the phone. It seemed like the longest hour of my life, but that night, I got to hear Susan’s voice and we talked about her husband, her mother-in-law, her daughters and granddaughter. Over the next two days, I got to talk with both my biological niece and my “step”niece who my brother raised as his own (she has a wife and an adorable daughter, whose birthday is the same as my granddaughter’s – cue spooky coincidence music here).


Susan’s suspicions began when she saw a telltale line on my brother’s birth certificate that asked “How many other children are now living?” followed by the number 1. She told me she asked my mother about it and she was evasive and defensive. It proved to be a sore subject, but as time wore on, mom revealed bits and pieces of information that simultaneously matched and conflicted with facts found on other documents, such as…..


Mom was not a Catholic, my father was (so I’m not sure who was Protestant) and his family insisted that they wanted nothing to do with me, which could explain why my adoption was so quick and smooth (my Catholic father was an usher at our local parish and the cheek-pinching priest was the one who arranged it). Because of that, sis said she had a lifelong disdain for the Catholic church. Ironically, part of the adoption “deal” was that I would be baptized and raised as a Catholic. When my dad died, I let that one lapse.


My brother, Jed Albert Howard


The health history on mom’s side was not as clean as California was told; heart disease and high blood pressure was evident in her parents and she and my brother both had blood pressure and heart issues. It was a brain aneurism that took him at the age of 42; her cause of death is unclear and currently, the state of Florida is telling me that I am not entitled to a certificate listing her cause of death (I’ve taken up this heated discussion with the Surgeon General of Florida). Later in life, mom had breast cancer and skin cancer issues and mobility problems; information that I immediately shared with my kids. And my doctor.


In talking with my new family members, I also discovered that, much like my adoptive family, some relations are better than the others; at times they were strained, but as we all agreed, “they did the best they could with the situation they had.”  In other words, both my nature and nurture environments were dysfunctionally normal. Funny thing, that’s exactly why one of my nieces is pursuing her master’s degree in genetics and neuroscience, to try and figure out why people are the way they are.


Although mom’s husband is still living and I have contact information for him, I have chosen not to disturb him personally. One of my nieces who is in contact with him regularly is going to assess the situation and see if he would be receptive to meeting or talking with me. I’m not sure if or how much he knows about me and I surely don’t want to shock him with that information. On the other hand, there might have been more communication than I know about and he might appreciate a connection to his late wife. Time will tell. I’m giving my niece as much time as she needs for this one. She did warn me that he and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum.


Speaking of science, I did do the DNA “spit test” with Ancestry and I kind of feel like the lederhosen/kilt guy on the commercial. On mom’s side, her mother was from Scotland (the Dewars of Clan Buchanan) and her father was full Irish (Kilgore, a sept of Clan Douglas). She told the state my father was “possibly English or Scotch” – but Ancestry says I’m 28% Western European, 25% Scandinavian, 19% Irish, 11 % British and 10% Iberian Peninsula, with genetic communities of Germans in the Midwest, Scots and settlers of Colonial New England. I’m thinking dad – with those blue eyes, medium skin and dark brown hair – might actually be German/Scandinavian. The worst part, though, is that I found no genetic matches. I was holding out a tiny hope that I might find my father with that test.

Tartan of the Clan Buchanan, which claimed the Dewars


Tartan of the Clan Douglas, which claimed the Kilgores. Thanks to OffKilterKilts for research and findings!

So with the magic comes residual mystery. I have been sent pictures of my mom and brother and nieces, and I think my bio niece really does look like me a little. There are dimples and this full-on ear-to-ear grin that I am claiming. Susan said after our conversation that my personality over the phone reminded her of her husband, so there’s some nature there. But that little black cloud of “Where’s Papa?” remains.


My mother and Jed on a long-ago birthday.


This has been an overwhelming time, I like structure and planning in my life and this has totally been a wrecking ball to that. I have responded with a lot of thoughtful pondering, sometimes scaring my husband who fears that I’m depressed because I’m so quiet. No worries there, just a little befuddled. It is a LOT to wrap my head around and sometimes the words to explain how I feel just don’t make themselves available. But there is absolutely nothing bad coming from this – I know that because I am of the age and attitude of “What’s the worst that can happen?” – coupled with the confidence that whatever happens, it can only enhance my life experience.


There is enough love to share with my new family and I am excited to embrace them. I hope they are ready to embrace me (again, that “click” possibility). I love having crowds in my life, evidenced by our annual spaghetti gatherings and being the “party house” for birthdays and showers and reunions and goodbye parties and celebrating togetherhood. I earned the nickname MamaRock from my theater kids and my news colleagues. I like to take care of people and point the spotlight at them. I’m used to being the storyteller, not the story. This has been weird, to say the least. But bring it on.


Part of the cosmic magic that brought this information into my life is that my new family members are conveniently located in the Pacific Northwest, so Thursday morning, I am boarding a plane for Portland (I know. The weekend of the eclipse. Have I mentioned that good timing is not always my strong suit?) and Friday night, I get to meet Susan and niece Ana. I’m hoping the rest of the girls will come down from Seattle so we can have a family day on Saturday. Lucky for me, most of my hubby’s family lives in the Portland area, so I get to see them too. Should be a very interesting weekend.


Wish me luck.


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Years, months, miles and mysteries

So I found my mom last month.


Not like in the “did she go to the store? Is she doing laundry? Is it Ladies Night again and we forgot?” kind of locating my mother, but a discovery that was a long time coming.


It was a little more than 63 years ago that my parents met a tearful woman at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital and learned that they, not she, would be taking home her little bundle of joy.


Anne and Joe Kochalka holding the future blogger at their Fremont home in April 1954. From the empty bottle, apparently I have always been a good eater.

I spent the next 18 years in their home, raised with love and rules and experiences and responsibilities. Was a good student, became active in my community as soon as I could drive and got into a four-year college with a scholarship right out of graduation. There was a lot of love and laughter in our house and I have aunts and uncles and cousins that wove a crazy quilt of love around me.


And through it all, I always knew I was “special” – from the moment I could understand, my parents told me that they got to pick me, which they thought made me better than any other baby at the hospital. Ironically, I understood adoption better than I did sex, because for them, it was much easier to have the first talk than the second.


In school, it didn’t seem to make much difference that I was adopted, but that all changed when I reached adulthood and had no idea what my ethnic background was, even though my parents spoke Czechoslovakian when they didn’t want me to know what they were saying and our dinners often featured fine Slavic cuisine (kielbasa and cabbage is a guilty pleasure and Buttermaid Bakery has my regular Christmas order for kolachi nut rolls ).
These are kolachi nut rolls. They are the most delicious bits of heaven one can consume and a Czechoslovakian holiday tradition. My mother used to make them by hand. I order them online from


I had all these relatives who didn’t look much like me. And I hated not having the answer to questions like “do you have a history of heart problems? Any cancer in the family? Are you predisposed to (fill in the disease)?”


And the dimples. Other than the parish priest pinching me until I winced every Sunday, where did they come from?


While my parents never kept secret the fact that I was adopted, the names of those involved were revealed only when my adoptive father died. I was 20 years old. Suddenly, I had two names that might hold the key to the Book of Answers. Luckily, at the time, I worked for a law enforcement agency that had access to DMV records and I found my “father’s” addresses and phone numbers immediately.


I could go home from work and call him. That night.


But for reasons that only fellow adoptees will understand, it took me five years to make that call. It’s not that I didn’t want to know. It’s not that I hadn’t fantasized in great detail the glorious reunion, the open arms, the rainbows and sunshine that would certainly appear when I was reunited with those who brought me into this world.


It’s because I could imagine what might be more realistic. A lot of murky water might have gone under the bridge in the last 25 years. I might be the family secret, not the “where is she now?” girl. I could be the She Who Will Not Be Mentioned, a scenario that many adoptees fear. That included me.


But the call had to be made, despite the possibility of a “click” once I asked that loaded question. I have a button in my office that says “Don’t Die Wondering” which applied to women’s rights, but now, I felt, was written for me personally.


I dialed the phone. My husband, who is my most ardent supporter and loves this little bastard no matter what, (I dig getting to use that word in its real context), was standing nearby. A male voice greeted me and I tentatively asked, “May I speak with Elizabeth?”


A short silence. “She’s not here. May I ask who is calling?”


This was it. The moment before the deafening click.


“This is Carol Rock. I think she may be my mother.”


Feeling brave and feeling that I had but nanoseconds to make my case, I added, “Are you my father?”


Another silence. But no click.


I heard him take a deep breath. “I am not,” he said. “But I would like to hear about you.”


A wave of cautious gratitude swept over me. I told him who I was, how I got his name, how I was raised in a loving, safe environment and why I was looking for the woman whose name was on my adoption decree. He listened and we agreed that a face-to-face meeting was in order. After a cordial goodbye, I made reservations to fly up to the Bay Area to meet him at his office.


He wanted a letter from me giving him a little background. I feverishly wrote a chronicle of everything I could remember, sharing highlights and pitfalls of the last 25 years. Emotionally, I felt like everything was going at a fever pitch, that I might be getting close to meeting the woman who I simply wanted to tell that I had been raised by good people and that I knew she did the right thing out of love.


And that I thought I turned out pretty good. That was important. I wasn’t letting adoption define me. I wasn’t angry, or looking for money or crazy. I was just an ambitious young woman with a lot of questions.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.53.08 PM

I can’t remember the flight or driving to his office or the restaurant we went to for lunch. I remember seeing him, his smiling face and outstretched hand. And I remember the gasp.

“You look just like her,” he said, apologizing for his reaction. “Except she had red hair. In fact, her nickname was Rusty.”


At the time, my hair color was my natural, lovely dishwater blonde. I had colored my hair before, but never more than an auburn brown. Never red. Didn’t think it would look good on me. It would be 20 more years before I colored it for a role in “Bus Stop” and decided that from there on out, red should be my natural color every four weeks.


We moved on to other topics. He explained that he and my mother were married in 1952 and that he was a pilot and she worked with the base photographer, both in the Navy and stationed at Alameda Naval Air Station. He was flying missions over Korea from late summer 1953 until he came home in January 1954 and much to his surprise, she was five months pregnant. When she went into labor in April, he did what he felt was his duty and drove her to the hospital. After checking her in, he told me that he left, chased to his car by a nurse who told him he should stay. He excused himself and the next morning, my mother called to say she’d given birth to a baby girl.


They tried to reconcile, but to no avail. He told me that they traveled back to Florida, where she was from, and he left her in Pensacola. He said what little he remembered of her family, that her maiden name of Kilgore was one that was as common as Smith in the South, and that there might be some family in Texas. He also said that Life magazine had done a feature on the base while she worked there and that she might have been photographed for that.


We parted as friends, I was thankful that he shared what information he remembered. Perhaps he was thankful that a day he anxiously anticipated for the last decade or so had gone smoothly. I decided to be respectful and keep my distance. He owed me nothing more and my debt to him was one of gratitude.


I flew home with a little more information than I had before. Although I was told I looked just like my mother, I still had nothing to show, other than re-living my presumptive father’s reaction over and over again.


Back at home, I started looking for old copies of Life magazine in the library, but could not find anything about the base or pictures of this woman who I resembled. Looking for your own face in a magazine isn’t easy, at least it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. Dimples? A certain smile? Red hair didn’t show up in black and white pictures. (Remember, this was before the internet and searchable archives online. I have since begun to comb through the pages of the 1953-54 issues, but still no luck).

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.56.57 PM

I wrote to the State of California, where the laws still redact data (such as birth parents’ identities), asking for anything they might be able to give me. I got a one-sheet of non-identifying information that was obtained from a cursory interview with my mother. From that, I learned that she was full Irish, Catholic, 23, from Florida, 5’ 9 ½”, 155 lbs., fair skin, freckled, red hair, and described as “attractive and intelligent appearance.” She was a high school graduate who worked as a grocery cashier and was interested in photography and art; she had no prenatal care and told the state she was always in good health and that there was no history of serious illness in any member of her family.


My father was listed as Possibly English or Scotch, Protestant, age 23, and described as “6’ 1”, 185 lbs., blue eyes, dark brown hair, medium skin.” He was a high school graduate and a photographer for the US Navy. He lived in the District of Columbia and his health was “good,” but family history was unknown.


So I was the product of a wartime affair.


Another document obtained from the state listed that my mother was a Photographer’s Mate (really…) in the US Navy from 1951-1953 and had no history of hereditary disease. My grandparents on my mother’s side were listed as “grandmother, 53, high school graduate, housewife; grandfather, 54, 8th grade education, construction engineer.”


When this information came in, I was in my third year of college at Cal State LA and I found the Adoptees Liberty Movement Association, or ALMA, a group of searching adults. For a year, I remember being active and learning how to become an advocate for myself and others, but then life stepped in and provided an interesting diversion. I became pregnant with my first child.


Suddenly, I had too much else on my plate to search. I was focused on becoming a mother, holding down a job, making a home and trying to finish my degree. But there was one moment when my inner searcher came out. When I saw my beautiful little girl for the first time, I looked in vain for the dimples. I remember being disappointed, thinking that I couldn’t even produce a kid who looked like me.


In June 1981, still 10 units short of my degree (but close enough to walk), I marched from the podium to the grandstand to hold my 1-year old daughter. A year later, she got a baby brother and five years later, our family was complete with the addition of another daughter – who had dimples. Finally, the ringer had arrived.


My family/work/home/life kept me busy and those last 10 units became less of a “let’s finish” and more of an “I’ll get around to it sometime.” I just didn’t sense the urgency anymore.


Kind of like my adoption search.


Until I met a detective friend who shared a contact with me that has since knocked me on my ass. Stay tuned. There’s more coming. Did I mention I found my mom? I’m getting on a plane in a couple of days to learn more about her… but there’s more in Part Two of this blog…..

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

The unfriending of America

Cartoons are often where the wisdom lives…

I’ve started this blog several times, but the unending stream of fresh hell coming out of Washington has made me stop and try to make sense of things more than once in the last two weeks, wondering if my sentiments are current or hopelessly out of date.

A few times, I’ve walked out of the office simply stunned.

It’s taking me a lot of thought and even more words to try and understand this – so get a cup of coffee or Maker’s (or both) and get comfortable. It’s a long one.

I came home from the theater last week to news footage of thousands of people at airports all over the world after the welcome gates of our country were slammed shut to people coming from seven countries across the ocean. I saw families, professors, students, doctors, all stranded. Children in handcuffs. What the hell?

Two days later, the Attorney General was fired because she questioned the legality of the imposed travel ban.

Rich individuals with few qualifications and crystal-clear conflicts of interest were installed in cabinet positions because a political party decided they were in the majority so they changed the rules and excluded any opposition.

Legislation has been proposed to seize national open space for private interests, which will surely result in drilling and stripping and destruction of natural wilderness.

Public information that every American has the right to has been shut off from environmental and health agencies, which will result in illness, injury and death.

And the hits just kept on coming.

Truth lies dead at the foot of the Capitol steps and nobody in power seems to care.

I’m physically sick to my stomach. The thought that this country is being run by members of the Party of Condescension (Webster’s def: “An attitude of patronizing superiority, disdain”) who are hell-bent on getting their way at ANY cost, just knots my innards. Screws up my thinking. Makes me frustrated and angry. Gives me an understanding of people who have just had it and blow up. (Note that I did not say that I was going to explode myself or anything else, just that I now see where they are coming from, not condoning their actions).

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-4-34-49-pmI’m working on a children’s show where one of the lyrics of a song is “don’t pit-a-pat ‘em” – a phrase that I thought the writer might have used just because it rhymed with the “up and at ‘em” that follows, but given the current atmosphere in this country, I now know exactly what it means.

Stand up to it, kiddo. Be strong and proud. Don’t let the situation run you over.

The overwhelming number of people in this country – those who are railing against the wrong and demanding that the bulls in our DC china shop stop their wholesale destruction – are being “pit-a-patted” – that disgusting “Now, now, this will all be fine, we know what’s best” behavior, usually accompanied by patting someone on the head, by those in power.

It’s like those white guys in ties who tell women to lie back and enjoy the inevitable sexual assault.

Speaking of the viable threats to women, I’d like to remind all of you post-menopausal whiners that just because you don’t need the health services that Planned Parenthood provide now, decisions made today will affect young women for years. Put down the mirror and think about your daughters and granddaughters for a change.

I freely use the hashtag #notmypresident because it reflects more than whose name I checked on my November ballot. I will not support anyone who abuses the Constitution and his fellow Americans the way he and his cronies do. People tell me that I’m wrong, that the election results support the current resident of the White House and that I need to just accept that.

“Give him a chance,” they say.

“Lie back and enjoy it,” I hear.

Nope. Not this girl.

Eight years ago, this country made history by electing its first black President. Talk about someone who opened the doors on Pennsylvania Avenue to find a mountain of thinly-veiled racist obstacles in his path. Racist. Yeah, I said it. Racism is alive and well in America, especially under that alabaster white dome. It was clear to me in 2008 and it remains clear today, there were elected officials who brought their “Whites Only” beliefs to the floors of Congress and acted accordingly. Health care? Not gonna approve it. Hate it, vowed to work against it, despite chance after chance after chance to come up with an alternative plan. Supreme Court nominee? Simply refuse to act on it just because.

This is wrong on so many levels.

How many people would get away with this kind of behavior at their place of employment? But millions of people in America accepted this from their representatives. Double standard much?

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-4-21-00-pmWhere is the discourse, where is the conversation, the exchange of ideas and offering of both sides of the issues. Where is the compromise? Where is the teamwork that we depend on to run our country smoothly? Where is the representation of every American, regardless of financial or social status?

What this current administration has fostered is a disintegration of America’s standards, all the way down to civility, especially on social media.

I know, there are people who will say to just turn away from the computer if my feelings are being hurt, but that’s not an option. I choose to live in an environment that fosters discovery, innovation, information sharing, creativity, friendship and positive progress. Social media is part of that.

Unfortunately, social media has given people the same blinders they wear in the parking lots of the mall during the holiday season. People’s behavior behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle that seems to offer a shield of power (or at least the horsepower to make an escape if they feel threatened by someone they offend) is abhorrent. Along with the power comes a sense of anonymity, because who remembers the face of the person who cut them off or zoomed past them to get a better parking space?

That anonymity has transferred itself to a year-round game on social media. Facebook, which started out as a place to share pictures of pets, grandchildren and whatever you are eating has become a vengeful battleground, where hurtful comments are thrown indiscriminately at friends and foes alike.

“Unfriending” someone, which sounds so junior high, has become the second level of hell. If you don’t like something someone says, you have several options. You can simply not participate, you can block someone, unfollow them or (cue scary music here) unfriend them, a move perceived by many as the ultimate insult.

Go back to the part where I said I understood the people who blow up. There are too many times that comments step on someone’s last nerve and cause them to find that option and click away years of friendship and camaraderie.

I know because I’ve done that. I started on election night. I uninvited people to an annual party that’s been going on for 34 years. I blocked people who I’ve been on stage with, who helped raise my children, who dance with me and sing with me and know many of my inner secrets.

I don’t even worry about unfriending trolls, the long list of those already existing in my “blocked” file. Those got sent into the ether over things that have nothing to do with the person who gamed the Electoral College last year.

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-4-37-59-pmI’m not interested in creating an “echo chamber” either, a phrase coined by a friend whose opinions and information I look forward to every time I see him post. I enjoy the intelligent discourse of information between friends and acquaintances, and some of my friends who have polar opposite opinions from mine acknowledge that.

Social media is the perfect avenue for talking, listening and learning. But nobody does any of that when people are blasted by name-calling or criticism.

And to those who might say I’m criticizing, you might be right, but it got your attention.

It comes down to respect. I respect people who listen, who put down the mirror and consider others’ feelings and opinions without insults or slamming the previous administration or group. Everybody has a different circumstance, we are all cut from the same cloth and we only have one planet on which we must coexist.

Love trumps hate. Enough said.


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!